Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Victoria Pool opened July 26, 1935 and was known as the Recreation Center at Saratoga Spa State Park. It was also known as the Pool in the Pines, the Spa Pool and later as the Victoria Pool as it is called today.
In 2006 Dr. L. Hoge(pictured on the right)  wrote the following narrative of the time he worked as a lifeguard at the Victoria Pool shortly after it opened in the 1930’s.  The identity of the little boy in the picture is not known.  Dr. Hoge died on May 4, 2012 at the age of 96 in Saratoga Springs. This is a hand written account kept in the Victoria Pool file in the Saratoga Room at Saratoga Springs Public Library :

For two seasons 1937 and 1938 I was a Guard at the Victoria Pool, New York State Park.  The experience which I acquired on this job benefited me a great deal.  I learned how to direct and relate to people in an authoritative manner but always in a way that they would respect.  Meeting many types of individuals was interesting and enjoyable.  I was fortunate to have this job.
When I was a Guard, Mr. Edwin LaDue was Director of the Pool and his assistant was Ralph Gutchel.  They were strict but fair.  There were two guards, Bill Brenan and myself.  In our   locker room was posted a list of rules and regulations which we were to enforce assiduously, no exceptions.  Food consumption and glassware were allowed only outside the barrier protecting the pool area and no smoking near the pool.  Joseph Escobar was in charge of the pool water treatment system.  The filtration and chemical controls were maintained first class.  Rhemi Denton was my age and worked the Solarium.  Jack Wilpen was in the Golf House.  He was a hustler, always with a pencil behind his ear and he kept us informed as to action in his area.  During WWII Jack was an Army Officer and had very interesting duty in Japan.
Bill and I came on duty at 9am and the first work was clean and sweep down the pavement around the pool.  Next we used gear for vacuuming the inside of the pool.  Since on the previous day swimmers were often diving for coins many of which settled in the deeper 10 foot area, we retrieved all coins and saved them in a jar and divided the loot at the end of the season. Finally we applied 5% solution hydrochlorite solution to pavement adjacent to the pool.  The pool was not open until 10am and so having completed our work, we would take a shower and a swim, and then sitting on a poolside bench we comment how fortunate we were. There were colorful flower beds on four sides of the area.  Relaxing classical music was being played and the whole peaceful scene was like another world.  When the doors opened at 10am the guests came rushing in.  Rude and raucous actions were not allowed and if it did occur then that was when our whistles would be piping and order would be maintained.  There were always some who try diving off the side of the diving boards.  This could be very dangerous and we were very emphatic about this not being done.
There were many pool visitors whom I had the privilege to meet and being 22 yrs. Old I was impressed.  Bob Pastor was at the pool regularly during the season.  He attended New York University where he was on the boxing team.  He told me the boxing coach would have been upset if he knew Bob was swimming so much which he enjoyed. Boxers need hard firm muscles, exactly opposite of swimmers.  However, Bob went on to become a heavy weight boxer and fought Joe Louis for the championship, once in New York and again in Chicago.  He was defeated both times. 
George Cassidy was the Starter at New York Racetracks.  He was often at the pool with Bing Crosby who would relate stories concerning film making.  One scene was supposed to be at a south sea island but was actually shot in a studio.  To have the effect of rippling ocean water reflected on her face an assistant stirred a pan of water to obtain the rippling effect.  Bing said that it was difficult to keep from laughing as he was saying his lines. 
Joseph Wheatley was at the pool often and he became a good friend of mine.  He swam for the New York Athletic Club and held the quarter mile world championship.  He also swam with Duke Kahznzmaku, Olympic swimmer and famous surf boarder. In 1945 I was in the Navy and an officer on the USS Atlanta.  We were in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and I visited the Duke who took me to the Out Rigger Canoe Club on Waikiki Beach and because of my friendship with his friend, Joe Wheatley, he taught me to ride a surfboard.  He gave me this card so I could be his guest at the Out Rigger Canoe Club whenever I was back in Pearl Harbor. 
Chauncey Olcott, the famous Irish tenor had a home on Clinton St.,Saratoga. It was called Iniscarra.  Chauncey’s daughter, Janet, was at the pool often with her friends who were thoroughbred horse owners from South Carolina.
Dr. Baudisch was a scientist doing research work on Saratoga mineral waters.  His laboratory was in the Simon Baruch building now the Administration building.  He came to the pool every day and I got to know him well and appreciate his discussions on his research. 
Marshall Cassidy was a member of the Jockey Club and established a training school for racing Stewards.  His daughter was at the pool daily and in later years I was often invited to their home Apple Knoll in Garden City, Long Island.

We saw Al Jolson often.  When he was at the Solarium located at the upper level.  My friend, Rhemi Denton attended him.  At the end of the season Rhemi was very happy when Jolson gave him a $10 tip.

Sophie Tucker was an entertainer at Arrow Head Club.  She was a large lady wearing a huge white flowing bathing suit.  She would cautiously enter the shallow end of the pool.  We would joke “look the pool is rising ”.
New York State Police had a horse mounted division in the state park.  When off duty they would come to the Victoria Pool. 
Sam Rosoff was famous as the builder of New York City subways.  At Saratoga he was well known at the gambling rooms of Riley’s, Arrowhead and Piping Rock, and of course he enjoyed the beauty of Victoria Pool always entering through the Golf House with his entourage.
Teresa Wright was a young actress in 1937 when she came to Victoria Pool.  She played backgammon at poolside benches with friends.  In 1942 Teresa Wright was in the film “ Mrs. Miniver “ with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon and she became a well known movie celebrity.
                                                                Leo J. Hoge, M.D.
                                                                July 21, 2005


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